Jacob Woods, a former Paducah Bank Teen of the Week, has concrete plans for the future. He wants to become a professional meteorologist on TV and help people know what’s coming from Mother Nature. But, you can’t predict many things — or even most things — like you can with certain weather patterns.
For 2020, the 18-year-old’s sights were set on graduating from Graves County High School and going off to Mississippi State University to kick-start his lifelong meteorology dreams. Instead, it’s been a roller coaster with unforeseen twists. The COVID-19 pandemic hit during Woods’ senior year, and then he prepared to move away about five hours from home after graduation — a major milestone in any young person’s life. Woods got an unexpected diagnosis in August though, right before his first semester at college. He had a rare, but benign, brain tumor. “It was definitely like the scariest thing I’ve ever been through,” Woods said. “We’re very religious. We relied on God a lot through this, a lot of prayer, and that’s what got us through it. There were a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of phone calls back and forth to family members, and just trying to make sense of a situation like that is intense. It’s hard to get a grip on what’s going on, and when it’s your body and it’s your life — it’s a whole different story.” He said you never think it will be you, until it is.
A marble-sized tumor, called a dysembryoplastic neuroepithelial tumor, located on the right side of Woods’ brain, apparently caused him to have a seizure on Aug. 6, while at his grandparents’ home in Bardwell. It rendered him unresponsive on the floor, where he was found at breakfast time — leading to an ambulance ride to Baptist Health Paducah for testing and a subsequent diagnosis.
“They’re pretty sure that it’s been there since birth and that it’s just been growing over time, and it reached a certain point where it caused a seizure to happen,” he said. Woods later underwent brain surgery on Aug. 18 in Paducah, resulting in the tumor’s entire removal and a three-day hospital stay, but the family didn’t learn it was benign until earlier this week, when the results came back. The whole situation was obviously scary and overwhelming for his parents, Max and Julie Woods. “We didn’t know what to do at first,” Julie Woods said.
“I mean, it was just kind of like, ‘What do you do?’ I think Max made a comment before and said, ‘Everybody’s just one phone call away from their life changing.’ We were like, ‘This wasn’t part of the plan.’ We weren’t supposed to be doing this right now and it just, it came from nowhere. Jacob has always just been, you know, the epitome of health.”
Max Woods added it felt like a “huge load had been lifted,” once they heard the good news about it being benign. “It takes that burden away from you,” he said. “We felt like God answered prayers.”
Woods shared that his long-term prognosis is positive, as he won’t need to undergo chemotherapy or other treatment since the tumor was benign. He’s temporarily on anti-seizure medication and restricted from driving and other things until being cleared by his doctor. That’s scheduled for Oct. 21.
However, due to the timing, Woods has delayed college at Mississippi State for an entire semester and plans to start in January. That, along with everything else, has been challenging since he’s eager to leave for the new adventure. But, he still sees a silver lining. “If it happened at Mississippi State, nobody knows me down there, especially because of COVID, you’ve got every restriction in place to pretty much make friends with people,” he said. “And I wouldn’t have been able to have the same type of love and care that I have up here. I’m glad that it happened when it did. It was awful that it was a week before college, but thank God, that it wasn’t a week after.”
Story by KELLY FARRELL [email protected]